A much-needed up­date

Business World - - weekender -

By An­thony L. Cuaycong CON­SID­ER­ING that Me­tal Max Xeno is just the sec­ond in the series to be re­leased in the West af­ter Me­tal Saga on the PlaySta­tion 2, it’s hard to be­lieve that 27 years have passed since the orig­i­nal Me­tal Max made its way to the Nin­tendo Fam­ily Com­puter. And how the ti­tle evolved from con­cept to fruition is a story in and of it­self. Fol­low­ing the dis­mal sales of Me­tal Max 4: Gekko No Diva (3DS, 2013) and of the mixed re­cep­tion to Me­tal Max: Fire­works (smart­phone, 2015), pub­lisher Kadokawa Games saw fit to swing the pen­du­lum back to con­soles and green­lit the lat­est it­er­a­tion for the PS4. Un­der­stand­ably, Me­tal Max Xeno rep­re­sents a de­par­ture in its treat­ment of fran­chise tropes. Even as it ac­knowl­edged its roots in tack­ling fa­mil­iar themes, the man­ner in which it does so dis­tin­guishes it from its older sib­lings. In this re­gard, Kadokawa Games’ in­tent is ev­i­dent; it aims to breathe new life in a ti­tle that seemed to have reached a plateau. It’s still a turn-based role-play­ing game fo­cused on ve­hi­cle com­bat in a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic mi­lieu, but its story makes sure to high­light its open-world set­ting. Me­tal Max Xeno be­gins with mankind at “True Cen­tury’s End,” on the brink of ex­tinc­tion and un­der threat from Sons of NOA, mon­sters cre­ated by the oth­er­wise-de­feated su­per­com­puter NOA in­tent on com­plet­ing its goal to erad­i­cate any and all ves­tiges of hu­man­ity. Af­ter sur­viv­ing a largescale at­tack, a small band of hold­outs in the Iron Base, the last re­main­ing set­tle­ment in Dys­tokio, aim to fight back. At the forefront of the re­bel­lion is Talis, a young wan­derer with an ar­ti­fi­cial left arm bent on seek­ing re­venge for the death of his mother, adopted father, and friends. In Me­tal Max Xeno, play­ers take con­trol of Talis and do bat­tle against the SoNs through the use of em­i­nently cus­tom­iz­a­ble tanks. There’s a learn­ing curve to mas­ter­ing the com­bat me­chan­ics, which in­volve the de­vel­op­ment of char­ac­ter skills and re­mod­el­ing of equip­ment en route to tri­umph. As with other ti­tles in the series, move­ment is turn-based, with the open-world map of­fer­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for buffs and lev­elups. Dun­geons abound, and while en­try is not re­quired, the de­gree to which grind­ing helps in de­feat­ing bosses makes their ex­plo­ration in­te­gral to progress. Par­en­thet­i­cally, tanks can be en­hanced through the ac­qui­si­tion of weapons found in ar­eas of the map and the proper as­sem­bly at the Iron Base of parts of de­feated en­e­mies. Mean­while, en­coun­ters on foot can re­sult in the dis­cov­ery of use­ful items and in­for­ma­tion pro­vid­ing tech­no­log­i­cal up­grades to the Iron Base and, by ex­ten­sion, rais­ing the rebels’ level of pre­pared­ness for com­bat. That said, bat­tles are rel­a­tively short, thus plac­ing a premium on in­trin­sic strength as op­posed to strat­egy build­ing. Need­less to say, SoNs are ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to over­come even with Talis driv­ing the pow­er­ful Red Rev. Thank­fully, Me­tal Max Xeno em­ploys a for­giv­ing sys­tem in which in-game death sim­ply means start­ing over at the Iron Base. Be­cause there is no cost to fail­ure, how­ever, the risk-re­ward in­ter­play be­comes im­bal­anced, and ad­vance­ment is a mat­ter of when, not if. It cer­tainly doesn’t help that the lo­ca­tions of the dun­geons and items, not to men­tion the fre­quency with which mon­sters spawn, are ran­dom­ized. Thusly, rep­e­ti­tion winds up be­ing as much an end as a means. Com­pared to pre­vi­ous series re­leases, Me­tal Max Xeno boasts of au­dio­vi­sual flair. Its graph­ics are pol­ished, well-ren­dered, and ap­pro­pri­ate for its hope-amid-the-end-of-days nar­ra­tive. Mean­while, its an­ime-style mu­sic, spoton am­bi­ent sounds, and Ja­panese voice tracks serve as per­fect com­ple­ments. Con­comi­tantly, play­ers won’t find it hard to im­merse them­selves in their ex­plo­ration of Dys­tokio as they look for sur­vivors and aim to be rid of any and all ob­sta­cles stand­ing in their way. In the fi­nal anal­y­sis, Me­tal Max Xeno is a wor­thy ad­di­tion to the fran­chise, rep­re­sent­ing a much­needed up­date of both aes­thet­ics and game­play and sig­ni­fy­ing bet­ter things to come. POSTSCRIPT: The Crew 2 (PS5): Vis­ually and au­rally, it’s a marked im­prove­ment over its pre­de­ces­sor. Rep­re­sen­ta­tions of known land­marks are be­liev­able if not spot on, aided in no small mea­sure by the out­stand­ing level of de­tail that re­mark­ably re­quires lit­tle to no dis­cernible load times. The sound­track is catchy, and au­di­tory ef­fects are well timed and prop­erly mod­u­lated. The script and voice act­ing could have been bet­ter; oc­ca­sion­ally, the di­a­logue seems stilted and in­ap­pro­pri­ately pro­duced. Still, there’s noth­ing in the cutscenes that qual­i­fies as a deal­breaker. Game­play wise, The Crew 2 tries to pull out all the stops, but doesn’t al­ways meet lofty ob­jec­tives. Play­ers aim to in­crease the main char­ac­ter’s “fol­low­ing,” the de facto mode of cur­rency that de­fines pro­gres­sion, through the com­ple­tion of a gamut of tests, skills chal­lenges, and trig­ger­ing events that lit­er­ally need to be pho­tographed for pos­ter­ity. Mean­while, the driv­ing dy­nam­ics take a lit­tle get­ting used to, and not sim­ply be­cause of the num­ber of choices on tap. Oddly enough, col­li­sion de­tec­tion con­tin­ues to be iffy, and rub­ber-band AI op­po­nents abound. None­the­less, The Crew 2 promises to amp up the fun fac­tor for hours on end. Per­haps it can be deemed a jack of all trades and mas­ter of none, but it does have plenty for ev­ery­body. And, best of all, its open world fig­ures to keep on grow­ing with con­tent up­dates that Ubisoft aims to pe­ri­od­i­cally roll out for free. Fea­tur­ing an en­hanced on­line ex­pe­ri­ence and con­tin­u­ing sup­port, it counts it­self among the best mas­sive mul­ti­player hy­brid ar­cade-sim rac­ing fran­chises fea­tured on the PS4. (8.6/10) Su­per Robot Wars X: its core de­sign is solid, but it does have some flaws. The story is for­get­table, and is lit­tle more than an ex­cuse to pair all the robots up un­der one ban­ner. Its pre­sen­ta­tion is amaz­ing, but it does get repet­i­tive af­ter a while to see the same at­tacks hap­pen over and over. The sprites look good, but the back­drops and back­grounds seem fairly generic by com­par­i­son. Most tellingly, it suf­fers from mecha im­bal­ance, which be­comes more ev­i­dent in higher lev­els of dif­fi­culty. The chal­lenge spikes can turn play­ers off if they’re un­pre­pared or in­ex­pe­ri­enced. Still, Su­per Robot Wars X is a must-buy for fans of the tac­ti­cal genre. And while it does pos­sess the po­ten­tial to shock the un­pre­pared and unini­ti­ated, it re­wards pa­tient gamers with an ex­pe­ri­ence they’ll re­mem­ber and lean on when­ever an­other ti­tle from the series is in the off­ing. (8/10)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.